They say history repeats itself, and that appears to be true in regards to being cool in school. After smoking gained notoriety some odd 40 years ago, kids have once again started to use nicotine — this time in the form of vaping.
Studies have shown roughly 30 percent of high school kids have admitted to trying a vape, even it was just the juice with no nicotine. There is a belief among many that it is a harmless activity and better for you than the cigarette alternative. However, any inhalation of smoke is hard on the lungs and the chemicals in the vape juices aren't healthy either.
Medical Health Officer with the Saskatchewan Healthy Authority, Dr. Lanre Medu, affirms the notion that vaping is harmful to today's youth.
"Vaping doesn't actually involve burning like cigarettes, but instead, it's inhaling and exhaling chemicals that are battery powered — this is not without risks at all. Particularly for youth and young people, there are numerous concerns. Because vaping juices sometimes have nicotine, in which case raises the chance of nicotine addiction," Dr. Medu explained. "Also for youth, you're looking at growing brains. So you're looking at the possibility of memory or concentration issues, or even impacting brain development because it doesn't stop developing until early to mid-20s."
E-cigarettes were initially designed as an aid for habitual smokers to slowly wean them off nicotine. That explains the different juices that come in varying flavours and levels of nicotine. Eighteen milligrams per dose is the highest, with 12mg, 9mg, 6mg and 3mg also being options before using the nicotine free juices. The flavours are tasty, which is suspected to be the leading cause of why many kids start.
This is seeming to reverse to work done by the government a few years ago when they banned all flavoured cigars and cigarillos in the province. Brands like Bullseye and Primetime as well as Menthol cigarettes were seen as too appealing for young people.
Dr. Medu has heard the arguments that vaping is a healthier alternative, but he's not buying it.
"What theoretically it does, because it's not tobacco, is that there is no risk or harms. It is not without risks. We also don't know of the long-term risks of the vape juices and this is because it's a relatively new thing and has not been fully studied. This will certainly become clearer in the coming years, but we do know it's not harmless," he said. "It should not be considered harmless and there is a lot of unknowns surrounding it."
But what about compared to cigarettes? Is it not better kids use e-cigs instead of those?
"I would not go as far as to say that it is better. The intent was not for young people," Dr. Medu noted. "Looking at it from the lens of young persons there is a whole lot of risk. For the younger population, yes it might look cool now, but the risks are certainly present and they should not be discounted. There is the concern too that the optic of vaping has led to a rise and return to smoking behaviour. It had declined over the years with all the work that had been done, but this new smoking sensation has begun to re-write that work."
Vaping has become a norm in schools all across North America and Weyburn is no exception. Brands like Juul, Mi-Pod and STLTH are readily available in gas stations and vape shops everywhere, and it's not difficult for kids to get their hands on one.
The era of vaping is already upon us, it's just a matter now of informing kids of what they're actually getting themselves into.